Foundation's Jared Harris On Playing Multiple Versions Of Hari Seldon In Season 2 [Exclusive Interview]


Jared Harris has played many memorable roles in his long and impressive career, but no other character is quite like Hari Seldon from "Foundation," the genius who discovered psychohistory and implemented a centuries-long plan to reduce the amount of time humanity would live in darkness after the inevitable fall of the galactic empire.

In season 2 of Apple TV+'s "Foundation," we see Harris play at least two versions of Hari: the uploaded consciousness that lives in the Vault on Terminus, and the other uploaded consciousness that Gaal (Lou Llobell) trapped inside the Prime Radiant, a device that reveals — to those who can decipher it — when civilization will collapse, and how to reduce the amount of time humanity lives in the Dark Ages.

Understanding these two iterations of Hari was no simple task. "It's difficult because you don't know if that version of the character has feelings," Harris told me about the Vault's version of Hari when I talked with him in advance of the second season's premiere. That version of Hari does, according to Harris, compare himself to one of the Greek gods on Mount Olympus who periodically comes out every century or so to issue statements with great portent.

'Everything that happens to that character after that is all informed by that experience'

You've said in previous interviews when asked about the craft of acting that, especially with something that's not historical or based on a real person, you have to use your imagination of that world and blend it with the emotional response and just try to get them firing together. For "Foundation" season 2, where you play two characters that were set up in season 1, how did you approach doing that for both of those characters?

Well, they have very different experiences, so you focus on that. They're different journeys, they know different things. They have different expectations about where they are, what they're doing. I mean, one of them has an extreme ... I mean, a psyche-destroying experience [of being trapped in the Prime Radiant]. So, essentially, everything that happens to that character after that is all informed by that experience.

And what about for the Hari in the Vault on Terminus? We know from season 1, he's not exactly like the original Hari in various ways. What did you look at to inspire you for that character? Was there anything you turned to or studied to try to get into that more synthetic mindset?

When we discussed it, we were trying to figure out which way we were going to go with him because he could be younger, which seems like that would be a valid way of going. I mean, we all imagine our peak version of ourselves being at a specific age. But then I think what was more interesting was to go with a sort of an older version of the character, and he kind of invokes the idea of the Greek gods on Olympus and that spoke to having him digging into that mindset, if you like, and then allowing that experience to ... I mean, in some way, starting to enjoy it.

It's difficult because you don't know if that version of the character has feelings, do you know what I mean? But it would be useful, you can explain or justify — it's useful for him in that he wants to embody an expectation that those people have. So, if he appeared as coming down off of Mount Olympus, in that kind of version of it. And also, there's the idea that [author Isaac Asimov, who wrote the books on which the show is based] invents the idea that Hari came from a planet called Helicon. And Helicon actually is a place that existed on Mount Olympus. So it ties in with that.

'It takes a decade for all that stuff to disappear and you can start to watch something just exist on its own terms'

You've said before that you can't watch yourself in something until a couple of years have gone by. For "Foundation," there's been some time since the first season. Have you been able to go back and watch the first season, or are you purposely not doing that?

Normally, I just find, I can't stop that instinct inside myself, which is that I can see a better way of doing what it was that I was trying to do. So, it just takes me a long time. Well, certainly you remember everything about it. You remember everything about the day, you remember all the things that went into creating that day. It takes a decade for all that stuff to disappear and you can start to watch something just exist on its own terms. But I do watch it — it's just that you find yourself with something else to do when it's in your scene and then you enjoy the scenes that everybody else is in because that's all a new discovery, you weren't there the day those were being done.

So, have you not watched season 1 then?

No, I have. Luckily, because I wasn't in it that much that I didn't have to turn away that often.

The second season of "Foundation" premieres on Apple TV+ on July 14, 2023.

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